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  • Unanswered Questions Abound on the Plight of Haitian “Adoptees” in the U.S.

    May 27, 2010

    by Karen Smith Rotabi

    In the days following the Haitian earthquake, well over 1,000 children departed Haiti as “adoptees” bound for the U.S. and other nations like the Netherlands and France. Those children now in the U.S. were brought across the border in an expedited manner on humanitarian visas and without passports.

    This marks a “first” for U.S. immigration in recent history and is reminiscent of the Vietnam baby lift. While good intentioned, problems exist; for one, the children are officially in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugees and Resettlement. This is due to the fact that they entered on humanitarian visas, rather than orphan visas. As a result, these children are not truly in the legal custody of their “adoptive” families until they are re-adopted in their new state of residence. While some families have managed to finalize their adoptions, other families are finding it difficult due to visa typology and the lack of documentation and adoption decree from Haiti.

    This means that these particular children do not enjoy the benefits of their new family’s health insurance or other entitlements of legally adopted children including U.S. citizenship. While advocates are working to resolve this issue, it appears that an act of Congress is being proposed to solve the problem. While we await the bill’s introduction, the longer it takes the more U.S. taxpayers will spend covering the costs of overseeing these cases as well as the expense of benefits such as Medicaid. Wasting any further time is a burden and an injustice for these children.

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    Tags: Haiti, Adoptions

  • Calderón Lobbies Ottawa to Ease Visa Restrictions

    May 27, 2010

    by AQ Online

    On his second state visit to Canada today, Mexican President Felipe Calderón will address easing visa restrictions for Mexican citizens seeking to enter Canada.  The two-day trip will include a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, several governors and an address to the House of Commons, as well as meetings with several Canadian business representatives in Toronto and Montreal. 

    This trip comes nearly a year after Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that Mexican citizens would require visas to travel to Canada.  The reason: part of a strategy to reduce the growing number of what Kenney and Harper have called “bogus” refugee claims from Mexicans, which grew from 2,550 in 2005 to 9,309 in 2009.  But Calderón’s personal lobbying efforts may not bear fruit soon. Canadian Minister of the Foreign Affairs Peter Kent reaffirmed yesterday that the restrictions will remain until Ottawa reforms the existing refugee system, a process likely to take a couple of years. 

    Calderón’s visit will focus on strengthening bilateral trade and investment as well as North American security. Harper announced plans last summer to send Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers to Mexico to provide basic training for their police force while bringing 32 Mexican commanding officers to Canada for leadership and investigative training.  Calderón is expected to press Ottawa to expand their efforts to fight drug-related violence in Mexico.

    Tags: Canada, Security, Felipe Calderon, visa requirements, refugee

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    May 26, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Mockus, Santos in a Tight Race ahead of Colombian Elections

    Campaigning for Colombia’s presidential elections closed on May 23, a week before Colombians head to the voting booths. Recent polls show the two frontrunners—Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus and U Party candidate Juan Manuel Santos—in a close race, with neither pulling in more than 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a June runoff election. According to an Invamer Gallup poll released on May 24, 37.5 percent of voters would pick Santos, compared to 35.4 percent who would pick Mockus. Should the election go to a second round, the poll shows that Mockus would pull in 48.5 percent compared to 43 percent for Santos.

    Commander of Colombian Armed Forces Resigns

    General Freddy Padilla, commander of Colombia’s Armed Forces, submitted his resignation to President Álvaro Uribe last week after 40 years of service in the country’s army. Although Padilla has been credited with striking heavy blows to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, his term has also been marked by controversy due to incidents such as the “false positives” scandal. Uribe accepted Padilla’s resignation on May 24. Padilla requested to stay in his post until August 7, when Uribe’s presidential term comes to an end.

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    Tags: President Alvaro Uribe, Mockus, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, National Guard, Trinidad and Tobego, Jamaican Violence

  • Pay Raise for Legislators Up for Vote in Costa Rica

    May 26, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Legislators in Costa Rica will hold a final vote today on a measure to increase their own salaries by 60 percent. Debate on the bill, which passed a preliminary vote, 35-20, on Monday, has taken up much of the lawmakers’ attention since the start of the current session of Congress on May 1, with the center-left Partido Acción Ciudadana leading the opposition.

    President Laura Chinchilla has threatened a veto of the bill if it adds to the government budget, even though it has the support of all but two legislators in her own party, the Partido Liberación Nacional. “My position has not changed,” President Chinchilla said through a spokesperson on Tuesday. “I will veto this law if clear guarantees are not made to the Executive and to the country that it does not create any new costs.” The government’s fiscal deficit is at 5 percent of GDP, and President Chinchilla has already pledged to increase spending in other areas, including security and infrastructure.

    If the law is passed, it will go before the Supreme Court for review, which could take up to a month, according to AFP.

    Tags: Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla

  • Santos vs. Chávez: una década de desencantos

    May 26, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    A solo una semana de la gran jornada electoral que elegirá en primera vuelta el favorito para ocupar la Presidencia de Colombia, es innegable que uno de los personajes que más tuvo incidencia durante la campaña, fue el mandatario venezolano Hugo Chávez. Los candidatos con intención de voto por encima del 1 por ciento, Antanas Mockus del Partido Verde, Noemí Sanin del Partido Conservador, Rafael Pardo del Partido Liberal, Germán Vargas Lleras de Cambio Radical, Gustavo Petro del Polo Democrático y Juan Manuel Santos del Partido de la U, indignados, alcanzaron a sugerir la suscripción de un acuerdo en que le pedirían al presidente vecino, no intervenir en la actual contienda electoral.

    El canciller colombiano Jaime Bermúdez fue más allá y manifestó su molestia ante la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) durante el Consejo Permanente, calificando como “inaceptables e indignantes” las declaraciones de Chávez en las que ha tildado hasta de “mafioso” al candidato presidencial uribista, Juan Manuel Santos. El secretario general de la OEA, José Miguel Insulza, sostuvo entonces que los comentarios de Chávez son “una mala práctica”, pero se abstuvo de calificarlos como intervencionistas.

    Precisamente Santos ha sido el eje de la polémica, pues Hugo Chávez ha reiterado en repetidas ocasiones que, palabras más, palabras menos, una probable elección del candidato uribista, significaría más guerra y menos posibilidades de reactivar el comercio bilateral interrumpido desde el año pasado.

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    Tags: Colombia, Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, Juan Manuel Santos

  • Dozens Killed in Violent Clashes in Jamaica

    May 25, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Gun battles in Kingston, Jamaica have killed at least 31 people in the last three days as heavily armed security forces have clashed with supporters of alleged drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The violence, which erupted Friday, was sparked by Jamaican officials’ receipt of a request by the U.S. government to extradite Mr. Coke on drug trafficking charges.

    Mr. Coke, who heads a consulting company that has earned lucrative government contracts, is also believed to control cocaine and marijuana trafficking operations in U.S. cities. Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who observers claim used Mr. Coke’s influence to win votes in west Kingston neighborhoods, had originally resisted the extradition request but recently decided to comply.

    Jamaica is legally obligated to extradite Mr. Coke under an extradition treaty signed in 1984. The gang violence that has emerged from the drug trade is largely responsible for Jamaica’s high murder rates. The island nation with a population of only 2.8 million recorded 1,660 homicides in 2009 alone.

    Tags: Drug Trafficking, Violence in Jamaica, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Christopher

  • Close Presidential Race in Colombia

    May 24, 2010

    by AQ Online

    According to the last round of polls prior to next Sunday’s presidential elections in Colombia, Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus and Partido de la U candidate Juan Manuel Santos are in a statistical dead heat, leading a field of seven other presidential hopefuls. Polls released Saturday by broadcaster RCN and the weekly newspaper Semana, show Santos (who polled at 34 percent) with a two percentage point lead over Mr. Mockus in the first round of voting.

    If neither candidate wins the necessary 50 percent of votes, a second round will be scheduled in June to determine the presidency. Under this scenario, if the second-round vote were held today, this weekend’s polls show Mockus leading Santos 45 percent to 40 percent.

    Most observers agree that the candidates’ agendas are similar in many crucial areas: combating guerrilla groups, supporting open markets and fighting unemployment. Mockus’ commitment during the campaign, however, to a strict adherence to the rule of law and government transparency has struck a chord with voters, according to analysts. Santos has emphasized the need to continue the legacy of President Álvaro Uribe, whose policies are widely credited with having vastly improved security conditions and promoted economic growth.

    Tags: Juan Manuel Santos, Green Party, Partido de la U, Presidential election in Colombia, Anatanas Mockus

  • Norway to Help Bolivia’s Oil and Gas Industry

    May 21, 2010

    by AQ Online

    In a meeting with President Evo Morales yesterday, the Norwegian environment and development minister, Erik Solheim, offered his country’s collaboration in helping to manage Bolivia’s oil and gas resources. This includes assistance in reducing the effects of hydrocarbon production on the environment. 

    Noting Norway’s success in working with private companies while maintaining state control over its hydrocarbon resources, Morales welcomed the offer and acknowledged that Norway has much to teach Bolivia.

    Morales was also praised by Solheim for his efforts on climate change, who called the International People’s Summit on Climate Change held in Cochabamba, Bolivia this past April an “inspiring” effort to achieve a broad agreement on climate change.  Solheim further noted that Morales’ call to defend the rights of “Mother Earth” coincided with Norway’s position on the environment. However, he stated that compromises and consensus on the issue would only be achieved through a pragmatic approach. 

    Morales’s visit to Norway also included an audience with King Harald V at the Royal Palace in Oslo as well as a meeting with Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

    Tags:

  • Uribe Wins High Approval Ratings, Presidential Race Tightens

    May 20, 2010

    by AQ Online

    According to a poll released today in Bogotá, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe boasts higher favorability ratings than any of the candidates competing for votes in the May 30 presidential elections. Although Mr. Uribe’s 73.7 percent approval rating is a historic high for a sitting president in Colombia, a February Supreme Court decision barred him from seeking a third term in office.

    The presidential contenders also earned favorable reviews: 68 percent of poll respondents gave a favorable opinion of Antanas Mockus, who is the Green Party candidate and a former mayor of Bogotá. Partida de la U candidate Juan Manuel Santos earned a 59.4 percent favorability rating, followed by Conservative Party candidate Noemí Sanín with 58.2 percent.

    A second poll released today, commissioned by 14 Colombian newspapers, shows a tight race between Mockus and Santos. Santos’s two percent lead is an improvement since late April, when polls showed Mockus surging ahead. If neither candidate receives 50 percent of the vote on May 30, the two biggest vote-getters will face each other in a runoff election on June 20.

    Tags: Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, Elections, Juan Manuel Santos, Antanas Mockus, Noemi Sanin

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    May 19, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Calderón and Obama Condemn Arizona Immigration Law

    U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderón to Washington this week where the two leaders decried a tough immigration law approved by Arizona last month. During remarks, Obama said he would ask the Department of Justice to take a “very close look” at the law to determine its constitutionality. “We're examining any implications, especially for civil rights, because in the United States of America, no law-abiding person, be they an American citizen, a legal immigrant, or a visitor or tourist from Mexico, should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like.” Calderón rejected SB1070 as “discriminatory.” In his first official visit to Washington, the Mexican president will deliver remarks to U.S. Congress on Thursday. Read an AS/COA analysis about Calderón’s visit.

    AS/COA will explore bilateral relations during our March 25 conference in Mexico City. Get a full list of speakers, conference agenda, and more information about the event, which is free and open to the public. The event will be liveblogged in English and Spanish.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Mercosur, Obama, Calderon, Iran Sanctions, cell phone, dominican republic elections, Arizona Immigration

  • Calderón on First Official State Visit to the U.S.

    May 19, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Mexican President Felipe Calderón visits Washington today on his first official state visit to discuss immigration and security with President Obama.  President Calderón is also meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today. This evening, President Calderón and his wife, Maragrita Zavala, will be the guests of honor at a State Dinner to be held in the East Room of the White House.  President Calderón will address a joint session of Congress at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. 

    Drug-related violence on the U.S.-Mexico border is a topic of discussion with President Calderón pressing Obama on the increased demand for drugs in the U.S. as fueling the increased violence.  While Calderón has praised the Obama administration for acknowledging that many of the weapons used in crimes in Mexico originate in the U.S., further cooperation will be necessary to stem the violence. As Diana Villiers Negroponte writes in Americas Quarterly, the extension and expansion of the Merida Initiative will be critical to these efforts.

    President Calderón, a vocal critic of Arizona’s SB1070, is expected to press for comprehensive immigration law reform at the federal level.  In recent weeks, President Calderón has issued travel warnings for Mexicans traveling to Arizona amid increasing pressure at home to cut off commercial ties with Arizona for having passed SB1070 into law.

    In remarks on the South Lawn today following a welcoming ceremony for the Mexican president, both leaders expressed their desire to work cooperatively to address these issues. President Calderón called for “a border that will unite us instead of dividing us,” with President Obama responding, “I say to you and the Mexican people: Let us stand together.”

    Tags: Immigration, Obama, Felipe Calderon, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, drug violence

  • Troca de experiências para combater o Racismo no Brasil e Estados Unidos

    May 18, 2010

    by Paulo Rogério

    Acontece nos próximos dias 20 e 21 de maio, na cidade de Atlanta, Geórgia, mais um encontro do Plano Brasil-EUA de Promoção da Igualdade Étnico-Racial - JAPER, na sigla em inglês. A iniciativa, realizada pelo Departamento de Estado Americano e Governo Brasileiro visa promover o intercâmbio de experiências no combate ao racismo entre os dois países, reconhecendo que as duas nações possuem características semelhantes, por serem democracias multirraciais e compartilharem do mesmo passado escravista.

    Esse Plano iniciou-se em março de 2008, quando da visita da então Secretária de Estado, Condoleezza Rice, ao Brasil e pretende engajar os governos, sociedade civil e empresariado para investimentos de longo prazo na promoção da equidade racial. A administração Obama manteve o programa e apoiou a realização de dois encontros, um em Washington DC e outro em Salvador, Bahia, todos em 2009.

    O Brasil é a segunda maior população negra do mundo e a maior do hemisfério ocidental. No caso dos Estados Unidos, os afro-americanos representam 14 porcento da população, porém sua influência cultural e política é notadamente reconhecida em todo mundo seja pela música, literatura ou movimentos como o dos Direitos Civis. Portanto, ao que parece, há muitas possibilidades de cooperação entre as duas nações. Para chegar a esse objetivo foi criado um grupo de trabalho (steering group) que está elaborando propostas nas áreas de educação, cultura e comunicação, sistema legal, mercado de trabalho e saúde. No futuro o grupo deve incorporar temas como esportes, moradia e acesso a crédito.

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    Tags:

  • Androids Land in Guatemala

    May 18, 2010

    by Kara Andrade

    Earlier this month three Android phones—LG's GW620, Samsung's i5700 Galaxy Spica and Motorola's Milestone Smartphone Android 2.0—were introduced by the rapidly growing Tigo telephone company in Guatemala. Android, an open operating system that allows access to Google's features such as email, text messages, calendar, maps and its browser, allows devices to be built faster and at a lower cost. It also increases the technology’s accessibility.

    The fact that Android is free and open source and now available in places like Guatemala is important because many people in developing countries use mobile as their primary or only source for Web access. According to the World Bank, more than two-thirds of the world's population lives within range of a wireless network. Half the global population has access to the Internet through a mobile device. This represents about 2.5 billion mobile users worldwide, which means many more people have access to a cell phone than to a personal computer.

    In Guatemala, long after the asphalt and pavement ends, cell phone networks extend deep into the mountains, and coverage is almost universally accessible. Much to the surprise of its Central American neighbors, Guatemala's telecom sector is in the top four in Latin America, according to Mario Marroquín Rivera, a consultant for Fundación2020. The cell phone infrastructure (99 percent saturation) is extremely well developed in contrast to Internet access where only 7.7 percent of people have high-speed access.

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    Tags: Guatemala, Telecommunications

  • After Pacification: The Social Aspect of Controlling Crime

    May 18, 2010

    by Christopher Sabatini

    Asserting the democratic rule of law and recovering social peace is a difficult task, especially in places like Rio de Janeiro’s favelas and Colombia’s one-time, crime-ridden cities and war-torn countryside. Democratic and sustainable crime control means establishing state control in places where it has never been present or where it was lost long ago. It also means more than just plopping down an occupying, even pacifying force. Establishing and maintaining peace requires developing a state that can deliver services to local populations.

    My recent trip and discussions with police, policymakers and experts on this theme in Rio have reminded me this is no easy task.

    The term “failed state” has become a fashionable term to describe countries like Somalia, Afghanistan and Haiti, but we also now know that there can be pockets of state failure elsewhere. While not as broad, dangerous or deep as those countries teetering on the edge of anarchy, pockets of failed states suffer from the same need: to develop the institutional and physical infrastructure to integrate deprived communities into the nation state and the legal market economy.

    For the last two days I’ve been traveling with a group of security experts to observe and discuss with Sérgio Cabral, the governor of Rio de Janeiro, the state’s security plan to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Among the group were former NYC Police Commissioner and LAPD Chief William Bratton and his colleague (and AQ co-author) Bill Andrews, former Vice President of Costa Rica and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Kevin Casas Zamora, local civil society, private-sector leaders, and the leadership of the newly created “pacification police” (policia pacificadora), or as their local units on the ground are called, UPPs. The latter is a police force created by Governor Cabral that serves as local beat cops in the crime-ridden favelas.

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    Tags: Merida Initiative, security in Brazil, favelas in Brazil, U.S. narcotics policy, Latin America crime.

  • Peru Declares State of Emergency

    May 18, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Peruvian President Alan García yesterday declared a 60-day state of emergency in the regions of Huánuco, Ucayali and San Martín following reports of increased narco-terrorist activity. The declaration suspends certain constitutional rights and freedoms like the freedom to celebrate meetings.

    The decision was taken in the aftermath of an attack last month on a Peruvian police outpost that killed two civilians and one police officer and in light of pleas from Defense Minister Rafael Ray, who claims he has received death threats and requires more security.

    The declaration came on the day of the 30th anniversary of the first terrorist attack by Sendero Luminoso (May 17, 1980). The 20-year guerrilla war that ensued claimed 70,000 lives and saw a dramatic rise in coca cultivation and cocaine trafficking in Peru. Today Peru is the world’s second-biggest producer of coca leaf, and the VRAE is the highest producing region in the country.

    Although they lack the organization and numbers of the original Sendero, splinter groups are still operating in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers region and continue to engage in violence and trafficking.

    Tags: Alan García, Sindero Luminoso, VRAE Region, Narco Trafficking

  • Thirty-Year Anniversary of the Sendero Luminoso Movement

    May 17, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    Today marks the 30-year anniversary of the founding of the Sendero Luminoso or “Shining Path”—and an internal conflict in Peru that has led to over 70,000 deaths and still haunts the country.

    Where does the movement stand today? It has fractured and continues to fight internally, and has transformed itself into a narcotraficante group. No longer can it even attempt to portray itself as an ideological or social movement. However, the group still does make the headlines, especially with the recent violence in Apurimac and the capture of its leaders. Yet, they also intend to run political candidates in the upcoming election. All in all, 30 years later, the movement is barely alive and internal fighting has greatly weakened its ability to grow beyond certain highland and rainforest districts.

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    Tags: Sendero Luminoso

  • Chile Seeks to Strengthen Ties at EU Summit

    May 17, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, arrived in Madrid yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s European Union-Latin America and Caribbean summit, and has already announced agreements to strengthen Chile-EU ties and to host the 2012 summit in Chile.

    Mr. Piñera, who took office earlier this year in the wake of Chile’s devastating February earthquake, thanked European leaders for their support during the rebuilding process and declared his trip so far, “a success in the realms of politics, economics and bilateral cooperation.”  The EU-LAC summit will be attended by representatives from over 50 countries and is intended to "pave the way for a new era in relations between the European Union and Latin America."

    In another development in Madrid, Piñera reportedly held bilateral talks with his Peruvian counterpart, President Alan García, and the two leaders have apparently agreed to "revitalize" their bilateral relationship, which has been strained for decades due to a maritime border dispute.

    Tags: Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, President President Alan García, European Union-Latin America and Caribbean

  • Citizen Security without Ideology

    May 17, 2010

    by Christopher Sabatini

    In the next ten years, Rio de Janeiro  is going to host both the finals of the World Cup of soccer and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Can the city that coined the word favela (and with it all the connotations of desperation and lawlessness) and the reputation as one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world pull off these massive international events? Certainly, Rio state authorities are doing everything they can to allay international fears and address concerns. 

    This week I toured a once-infamous Rio favela, Dona Marta, with a representative of the governor of Rio de Janeiro’s cabinet.  My impression of the favela that I visited is that there certainly has been progress. We visited one of three police precincts that had been recently established to pacify the informal neighborhood. The one we visited had seven video cameras posted throughout the favela, friendly beat police walking the narrow, twisting stairs that threaded their way among the houses, and a sense of peace, even civility.  A success by any standards in what many consider to be the quintessential den of crime and lawlessness. 

    Unfortunately, it’s only one of over 300 favelas in Rio de Janeiro.  The plan is to take each one, one at a time, with a combination of rooting out local drug lords and criminal networks and establishing a system of community policing, providing basic services (such as electricity and social services) to these informal settlements perched on cliffs overlooking the city or islands within the city.  By all accounts, including that of former New York City Commissioner Bill Bratton, this is the only way to do it. 

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    Tags: Brazil, Crime, 2014 World Cup, 2016 Olympics

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    May 15, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Secretary Clinton Stresses Private-Sector Role in Hemispheric Relations

    At the Council of the Americas’ 40th Washington Conference on May 12, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened with a speech underscoring the high priority of hemispheric issues on President Barack Obama's agenda, and identified three areas for U.S.-Latin American cooperation: trade and energy partnerships, public security, and inequality and immigration. Secretary Clinton concluded her speech saying, "I am committed to doing everything I can to have this hemisphere be a model and to combine our strengths, overcome our weaknesses, and work in a real spirit of partnership and friendship." Other speakers at the Conference included: Arturo Valenzuela, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs; José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General, Organization of American States; and cabinet members from Colombia, Panama, Peru, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico.

    Read summaries of speaker’s remarks and access materials from the conference.

    Calderón to Address U.S. Congress during Visit

    A National Journal blog looks at what to expect from Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s address to the U.S. Congress on May 19 during his first official visit to Washington under the administration of President Barack Obama. Speaking on the passage of Arizona’s new immigration bill, COA’s Eric Farnsworth says, “I would suspect the president would present a united front with Calderón since they have both come out against the Arizona law, but it's delicate.”

    Council of the Americas is holding a May 14 panel discussion in Washington about Calderón's upcoming visit. Can't join in person? Register for a free live webcast by 5 p.m. on May 13.

    Read More

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  • Lula Heads to Iran for Nuclear Talks

    May 14, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will travel this weekend to Tehran for talks with his Iranian counterpart President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The leaders will discuss Iran’s nuclear amibitions and Lula da Silva is expected to try to persuade Iran to revisit an enriched uranium swap deal before other world powers impose additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

    Mr. Lula da Silva is in Moscow today for meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev—another key player in ongoing negotiations with Iran. When asked to comment on the prospects of success for Brazilian efforts to revive the stalled swap deal, Medvedev said, "As my friend the Brazilian president is an optimist, I shall also be an optimist. I give 30 percent."

    Critics of Lula da Silva’s foreign policy argue that Brazil doesn’t have the clout to transform Iran’s agenda and is acting out of pure national self-interest. Others, like Brazilian foreign policy advisor Marcel Biato, argue that a fresh approach to the negotiations by neutral third parties is precisely what is required. Most observers agree, however, that Brazil’s newest attempts to restart the negotiations are likely the last resort before new sanctions are imposed.

    Tags: President Lula Da Silva, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Brazilian Foreign Relations

  • Mockus Would Work to Normalize Relations with Venezuela, if Elected

    May 13, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Colombian presidential hopeful Antanas Mockus, said in an interview yesterday that, if he is elected, he would seek to normalize trade with Venezuela and use diplomatic channels to diffuse tensions between the two Andean countries, which have intensified in recent years. Mr. Mockus is Colombia’s Green Party candidate for president and has taken the lead in polls in recent weeks ahead of the country’s May 30 elections.

    In the interview, Mockus expressed his desire to “choose the path of respect and prudence” with Venezuela but also noted that, “if Venezuela becomes another Cuba, it would be sad for everyone.”  He also discussed relations with the United States and expressed his intention to continue strengthening ties to the United States and to ensure the continuation of the Plan Colombia aid program that has helped Colombia combat narcotrafficking and guerilla groups.

    Tags: Venezuela, Narcotrafficking, Election, olombia, Mockus

  • Ecuador’s Open Border Rhetoric

    May 13, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    In a world shaped by bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, where goods and services cross borders with relative ease, it is often difficult to say the same about people. However, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has been a leader in championing integration efforts, in particular open border policies in the Western Hemisphere. Ecuador’s 2008 constitution has provisions guaranteeing the free movement of people through Ecuador’s borders and the country is planning to pressure the Organization of American States (OAS) to adopt open-border policies that allow all people from the Americas to have free movement across the region.

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    Tags: Andean Community, Rafael Correa, SB 1070, Ecuador Trade Policy

  • Hilda Solis Talks Immigration

    May 12, 2010

    by Jason Marczak

    The nationwide fury over Arizona’s SB 1070 has yet to diminish. And rightfully so. When this new law goes into effect at the end of July, any American citizen can be asked for their documents if they look to be undocumented. This is just plain un-American.

    As President Obama said at a Cinco de Mayo event at the White House last week: “We can't turn law-abiding American citizens—and law-abiding immigrants—into subjects of suspicion and abuse. We can't divide the American people that way.”

    A similar message is being reiterated by members of his administration including Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the first Latina to serve on a presidential cabinet. At the Council of the Americas’ 40th Washington Conference on the Americas today, Secretary Solis, the last speaker of the day, emphasized that the U.S. “must change the direction of our immigration policies.” Speaking before business leaders at the State Department, she flat out said that she “doesn’t agree with what’s happening in Arizona.”

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    Tags: Immigration, SB 1070, Hilda Solis

  • Morales Confronts General Strike

    May 12, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Bolivia’s main trade union, Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) called this week for an indefinite general strike after sporadic rallies and riots last week followed the Morales administration’s decision to cap wage increases for government employees at 5 percent. Demonstrators contend the increase is not enough to compensate for diminished purchasing power and a rise in food prices. Last weeks work stoppages, which began with miners and industrial workers, were soon followed by a 24-hour strike by teachers and public health workers.

    These are the first widespread strikes in Bolivia since Evo Morales took office in 2006. Once he assumed the presidency, Morales increased wages by 13.7 percent in his first year and has increased wages by an average of 8.7 percent each year until 2009 when wages were raised by 14 percent.

    The government has so far downplayed the impact of the strikes and is standing by its decision. Economy and Finance Minister Luis Arce pointed out that the increase was well above the .26 percent inflation recorded in 2009. Other studies, however, indicate that the real minimum wage between 2006 and 2009 grew only 1.4 percent.

    Tags: Bolivia, food prices, Morales, Trade Unions, strike, wages

  • Renewable Energy is Essential to Energy Independence

    May 11, 2010

    by John Parisella

    The ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the sinking of a BP oil rig has reignited the debate about the risks of offshore drilling for fossil fuels. This issue was raised in the presidential election campaign of 2008, where the proponents of ending the ban on offshore drilling coined the phrase “Drill, baby, drill.”

    Just recently, President Obama, in an effort to develop a comprehensive approach to greater energy independence and climate change policy has attempted to placate some of his opponents by endorsing a limited resumption of offshore drilling. The environmental crisis resulting from the continued leakage in the Gulf has, however, given supporters of renewable energy hope that America will finally realize the true cost of its dependence on fossil fuels and consider the alternatives.

    Read More

    Tags: energy, Gulf of Mexico, Offshore drilling, Quebec

  • Mexico Extradites Former Governor to Face Charges in the U.S.

    May 11, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Mexican authorities this week handed over custody of Mario Villanueva, the former governor of the state of Quintana Roo, to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to face charges of narcotrafficking and money laundering.  The extradition was seen as a long-fought victory for U.S. diplomatic efforts to bring him to justice in the United States as Villanueva had successfully avoided extradition for nearly three years. 

    In an article published yesterday by Americas Quarterly, Council of Foreign Relations fellow Shannon O’neil discusses how as the power center of the drug trade in recent years has shifted from Colombia to Mexico, the U.S. has stepped up its effort to engage Mexico directly with such efforts as the Merida Initiative. 

    The extradition of Villanueva is a noteworthy example of how increased U.S.-Mexico efforts to clamp down on the drug trade on both sides of their mutual border may be paying off. Over the past several years, Mexico has extradited 326 known heads and associates of the Mexican drug cartels to the U.S.

    Villanueva was flown to White Plains, New York Saturday evening under the custody of the US DEA where he is awaiting trial.

    Tags: Mexico, Shannon O'Neil, Drug Trafficking, narcotics Mexico, DEA

  • U.S. Policing Experts Propose New Strategy to Fight Crime in Latin America

    May 10, 2010

    by AQ Online

    A new article published today in Americas Quarterly outlines eight steps that Latin American governments can take to combat criminal activity. The article, written by William Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner and former Los Angeles Police department chief, and William Andrews, a veteran law enforcement expert, emphasizes that “substantial reforms in police departments, in police strategies and in criminal justice practice can have a substantial impact on crime in Latin America.”

    William Bratton, who led successful efforts to combat crime in U.S. cities, argues that reforms implemented in the United States can serve as models for Latin America.

    Despite the fact that Latin America has more challenging crime problems than the U.S. did—even during the crime peak in the early 1990s—the authors argue that the following general reforms can lead to fundamental security changes: establishment of manageable enforcement units; assignment of quality managers with genuine authority; reform of crime reporting and analysis; development of effective local crime investigation; establishment of effective oversight systems; the building of a career path for rank-and-file police officers; development of explicit use-of-force policies to control police violence; and reforming of criminal justice procedures.

    Read the full article.

    Tags: Crime in Latin America, William Bratton, William Andrews, Law Enforcement Strategies

  • Water Dispute Sparks Protests in Quito

    May 7, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Police fired tear gas on indigenous protesters in Quito yesterday as they demonstrated against a new law that they claim will restrict communities’ water supplies. The law, Ley de Recursos Hídricos, would create a “Central Water Authority” (Autoridad Única del Agua (AUA), which would be presided over by a cabinet-level presidential appointee and would oversee Ecuador’s national water distribution.

    The law’s proponents say it would “decentralize and better regulate” Ecuador’s freshwater supply systems. Protesters, led by the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de Ecuador (CONAIE), say it would allow private companies to “divert water that local people have depended on for generations.”

    As many as 1,500 protesters gathered in front of Congress today where the bill was being debated; according to the Red Cross, one demonstrator was injured.

    Tags: Indigenous Rights, Protests in Ecuador, Water Rights

  • Brazil, Venezuela, Others Threaten to Boycott EU-LatAm Summit Over Lobo Invitation

    May 6, 2010

    by AQ Online

    President Porfirio Lobo confirmed today that he was invited to the EU-Latin American summit scheduled to be held on May 18 in Madrid, but that he would only attend the EU-Central American meeting.  The invitation of Honduran President Lobo to the EU-Latin American summit has riled some leaders of the UNASUR bloc.  Several countries are threatening to boycott the meeting if President Lobo’s invitation is not rescinded; their refusal to accept the Lobo government’s legitimacy continues to cause a rift in the South American bloc. 

    Several governments continue to view the election of President Lobo following the ouster of Manuel Zelaya as illegitimate.  “There is unease shared by most of us that will prevent a lot of UNASUR countries attending the summit,” expressed President Rafael Correa of Ecuador.  An aide to President Lula da Silva of Brazil, Marco Aurelio Garcia added, “If Honduras attends, then at least ten Latin American presidents will not go to Madrid, starting with the president of Brazil.”  President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has also expressed his intent to boycott the proceedings should President Lobo attend. 

    For its part, the Spanish foreign minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos announced that “...there will be great participation” in the summit, noting that the enthusiasm to attend was high in many countries in Latin America and the European Union. 

    “I value the will of the people of Spain and of the European Union, so I will do what is necessary to guarantee that we do not take any action that will generate divisions or conflict,” said President Lobo, noting that the summit will have two separate meetings.  It has not yet been determined how President Lobo’s absence from the larger EU-Latin American summit would affect calls for a boycott.

    Tags: Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras, Lula, Lobo, EU

  • La libertad de prensa y el DAS en Colombia

    May 6, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    Esta semana se celebró el día mundial de la libertad de prensa y el gremio amaneció con muy buenas noticias: Dos colombianos, Hollman Morris y Claudia Julieta Duque fueron galardonados con sendos premios internacionales por su defensa de este derecho fundamental. El primero, quien además será este año un Nieman Fellow en Harvard,  recibió el premio Samuel Chavkin a la Integridad en el Periodismo otorgado por NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America). A Duque por su parte, Reporteros sin Fronteras Suecia le otorgó el premio de Libertad de Prensa 2010 como un reconocimiento a su labor en contra de la injusticia y la censura en Colombia.

    A ellos, sin embargo, los atraviesa un triste episodio en común: Encabezan la lista de periodistas 'chuzados' por el Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS), policía secreta de Colombia, que les ha dedicado manuales enteros que indican como amenazarlos, perseguirlos, desprestigiarlos e incluso, intimidar a sus familias.

    El escándalo del DAS por el que ya se han llamado a juicio a cuatro ex directores, tres de ellos destituidos, toca en especial las fibras de estos dos colegas y sus familias, a quienes conozco y aprecio por su entereza y lucha por conocer la verdad sobre quién está detrás de toda esta estrategia de sabotaje, si se tiene en cuenta que ésta central de inteligencia es un organismo adscrito directamente a la Presidencia de la República.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, Libertad de Prensa

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    May 6, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Mexico, Germany Host Climate Talks

    Germany and Mexico jointly hosted this week informal climate talks aimed at deciding what steps should be taken in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in December. The Petersberg Climate Dialogue held near Bonn, Germany, brought together representatives from 45 countries to discuss topics such as the carbon market, reducing emissions from deforestation, and technology. While the talks—initiated by Mexican President Felipe Calderón and German Chancellor Angela Merkel—did not produce any climate change agreements, they “built up trust” and helped to “bring movement to the climate talks,” Mexico’s Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada told Bloomberg. View a video of President Calderón speaking at the Petersberg Dialogue.

    LatAm Governments Join Chorus against Arizona Law

    The Latin Americanist blog takes a look at rising criticism from governments across the Americas against the Arizona immigration law. Mexico voiced its opposition to the law, and Colombia, Brazil, the OAS, and UNASUR have rejected the law as well. During this week’s summit in Argentina, UNASUR leaders issued a declaration rejecting the law for its “criminalizing of immigrants.”

    Read More

    Tags: Chile, Cuba, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Arizona, Argentina, Haiti, Media, UNASUR, Immigration Law

  • Truth Commission to Investigate Coup in Honduras

    May 5, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Honduran government has officially announced the launch of a truth commission to investigate the military overthrow last year of then-President Manuel Zelaya. The commission includes Guatemalan former vice president Eduardo Stein, Canadian diplomat Michael Kergin, and Julieta Castellanos, head of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, and was a key campaign promise of current President Porfirio Lobo.

    The government’s hope is that the commission will help restore the country's international standing and allow it to move beyond last year’s events. President Lobo says the commission, "exemplifies our resolve to heal wounds, learn from our mistakes and build together the future of this country."

    There is support for the initiative at the UN and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, said in El Salvador today that Lobo's government had now taken the "necessary steps" to return to the international community. Critics contend the commissions findings will be biased and will not report abuses committed by government troops during and after the coup.

    The commission will deliver its findings in 6 to 8 months, according to reports.

    Tags: Manuel Zelaya, Coup in Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, Honduras truth commission

  • For Lula in Iran, an Opportunity Awaits

    May 4, 2010

    by Matthew Aho

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—one of Time Magazine’s newly-named most influential people in the world—will travel to Iran next week for what have become regular meetings with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The leaders are sure to discuss the month-long UN conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that began yesterday in New York, their countries’ growing commercial relationship, and ways that Brazil’s emergent roll as an arbiter between Iran and the West can advance their mutual interests.

    Overall, Lula’s efforts to expand Brazil’s clout on the world stage have been characterized by refusals to choose sides in historic disputes or submit to pressure from major powers like the United States. His approach to international relations seems rooted in efforts to engage all parties as equals, while avoiding tough subjects like Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Russian authoritarianism or Cuba’s human rights record. The hope might be that by maintaining neutrality in the short term—while simultaneously expanding trade and investment ties to its less savory allies—Brazil’s access to and presumed influence over key foreign leaders will make it a channel through which to conduct sensitive diplomatic negotiations.

    What has this strategy achieved? Well, it has definitely generated a lot of news. From Israel to Iran, India to China, Cuba to Russia, Lula’s globetrotting has produced intense media coverage and the belief in many circles that Brazil is a rising power. It’s resistance to U.S. pressure to support stronger sanctions against Iran—even during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Brazil in March—certainly drew the ire of the U.S. foreign policy community and made him a hero among those who disagree with the U.S. approach.

    But, what about the bigger picture?

    Have the Iranians halted their nuclear programs or submitted to unfettered international inspections? No. Has Cuba improved its human rights record? Não. Israeli-Palestinian peace? Keep dreaming. If Lula really wants the world to believe that next week’s abraços with an Iranian tyrant are motivated by anything other than pure national self interest, it’s time for him to actually achieve something for the greater good.

    Here’s one idea.

    Remember those three American hikers from Berkeley who were arrested in July 2009 when they foolhardily strayed into Iranian territory while hiking in Kurdistan? Their names are Shane Bauer, 27, Joshua Fattal, 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31 and the State Department reported last week that two of them are ill in prison in Tehran. It’s time for Lula to bring them home.

    This is a very real possibility for a few reasons...

    Read More

    Tags: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Brazil-Iran relations, Matthew Aho, Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, Sarah Shourd

  • Nestor Kirchner to Lead UNASUR

    May 4, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner was chosen today to be the first secretary general of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) at a summit outside of Buenos Aires attended by heads of state and foreign ministers from the 12 countries that comprise the group. Speaking after today’s vote, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called Mr. Kirchner “a person with a lot of experience" and called his nomination “yet another step in the consolidation of the organization.”

    The crucial vote in today’s process was that of new Uruguayan President José Mujica who, in the end, decided to abstain. At a similar summit last year, former Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez vetoed Mr. Kirchner’s candidacy to protest Argentina’s position on a dispute that has resulted in the blocking since 2006 of a bridge linking the two countries. Last March, Uruguay began adopting a more conciliatory tone and Mr. Mujica has friendly relations with Mr. Kirchner and his wife, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

    Seven of the region’s presidents were present for the vote. Other items on the meeting agenda include discussions on the recognition of Porfirio Lobo as President of Honduras, financial assistance for Haiti, a communal denunciation of an immigration law recently passed in Arizona, and the Falklands Islands conflict.

    Tags: Néstor Kirchner, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, UNASUR, José Mujica

  • Bolivia Nationalizes Electricity Companies

    May 3, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Bolivian President Evo Morales announced on Saturday the nationalization of three private electricity firms in a move the government says will leave it in control of 80 percent of the country’s electricity production. In his speech commemorating international workers’ day, Morales said, “once again, a first of May, and as always we’re recovering our privatized companies.” The government claims the nationalizations will guarantee labor stability and lead to a 20 percent reduction in electricity rates. The moves are part of the employment stability and energy reduction agenda. 

    Soon after the decree, police occupied the offices of three companies: Corani, Valle Hermoso and Guaracachi. Corani is half owned by a subsidiary of French company GDF Suez. Guaracachi's main partner is U.K.-based Rurelec, and Valle Hermoso is locally owned.

    Last year, Mr. Morales announced the takeover of a British Petroleum (BP) subsidiary, He has also nationalized oil and gas reserves in an effort to redistribute wealth to Bolivia's indigenous majority. Critics say the spate of nationalizations will reduce investor confidence in Bolivia and threaten the prospects for sustained future growth.

    Tags: President Evo Morales, Nationalization in Bolivia, Bolivian Economic Policy, Foreign Investment in Bolivia

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